Festival Time: My New Bedroom is So Nice I Could Almost Eat In It

I went from spending the last three weeks living practically alone, in a spacious five-bedroom house (with a giant flat-screen television—a veritable bachelor palace) to this, a twin bed (with a really nice frame, though), in what appears to be a dining room.

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But I guess that’s what happens when a town with a municipal population of 42,000 (178,000 including the surrounding area) receives over 200,000 guests for the 2nd largest comic festival in all of Europe.

You get stuck in a dining room.

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Souvenir: Frédéric Poincelet’s Le Périodique

I picked up this collection on what will be the first of many trips to boutique comics shop Le Comptoir des Images here in Angoulême. I will probably devote an entire post to this shop and its relationship to the surrounding artistic community, so suffice it to say for now this place is simply awesome.

There was a large selection of books present by local and beloved publisher Éditions Ego Comme X, so it was difficult to choose just one. They are beautiful to hold, lovingly-crafted, high quality printings with an intimate and personal feel to them. Once I had my selections narrowed down to a small handful, I made my final choice based on what in other circumstances might be superficial criteria: economy and design.

An Inventory of Experience: Sorting Through the Details

The coffret (“little box”) Le Périodique (“journal”), is a collection of five 32-page autobiographical zines by Frédéric Poincelet, originally published between October 1999 and January 2002, nestled together in a beautiful cardstock sleeve and re-released in January 2013; priced at 19€, I couldn’t pass this up. Rather than compile these zines into one collection, I think it makes sense to keep them as individual episodes; the covers present the volumes in what might be unique periods in the author’s life: combatif, égocentrique, excessif, dépressif, and définitif, all presented in a gorgeous matte finish and dynamic colors.. Poincelet’s stories are made up of a series of smaller experiences and full of little details; this format compels the reader to sort through these details, adding to the author’s loose and personal narrative style.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.ego-comme-x.com.

 

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Photo courtesy of http://www.ego-comme-x.com.

Fredéréric Poincelet has a historian’s attention to detail, recounting these stories as memories like you and I would—memories of love, desire, and creative exploration—but full of visual metaphor. These stories are unique too, in that he writes them as both an artist and fan, capturing the time period of the medium and creative process of the comic book artist, name-dropping his influences (Dupuy, Killoffer, Trondheim) along the way. These stories strike a perfect and honest balance between humility and pretentiousness, a space that most of us can relate to, albeit reluctantly.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.ego-comme-x.com.

 

Éditions Ego Comme X

This publisher is a well-curated, literary comics small press of the first order. Founded in Angoulême in 1994 by Xavier Mussat, Fabrice Neaud, and current editorial director Loïc Néhou, they have kept their output to an impressive, but minimal, 4-5 releases a year. With a keen editorial eye to autobiography, diary, and memoir, they have published an impressive roster of international auteurs: Aristophane, Frédéric Boilet, Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Benoît Peeters, John Porcellino, Sylvie Rancourt, and many others.

Just Landed: First Impressions of Angoulême

Wow. When I had conceived the Comics Vacation (Comics + Travel + Everything In Between) blog, this was exactly the kind of opportunity I had in mind; however, I wasn’t sure what this opportunity would look like at the time, or if I would actually manage to pull it off. In terms of thematic scope, this trip hits all of the key criteria.

So what am I doing here exactly? How did this all come about? Here’s the story, in brief.

I like comics. I like European comics, and I especially like French comics. After discovering les bande dessinées a number of years ago, I’ve been collecting and reading them, entertaining the notion of one day being fluent enough to translate them professionally. In my undergraduate studies I minored in French, optimistic that this background would one day serve a higher purpose. In my current course of study, publishing, I’ve been searching to collect a wealth of experiences to reflect my interests and skills, to differentiate myself as an aspiring comics publishing professional. My French skills are less than awesome, and conventional wisdom says immersion is absolutely necessary; I’ve always had it in mind that I would study in France.

After a successful summer internship with Fantagraphics Books in Seattle, I began to research opportunities abroad. I wrote a cover letter and C.V. en français and sent it out to seven small and large publishers in Toulouse, Angoulême, Paris, and Brussels. Of those messages sent, I received five very polite rejection letters.

A few weeks after I sent the last of the letters, I received an email from cartoonist Jessica Abel. Jessica is on extended residency at La Maison des Auteurs, a comics cultural institution in Angoulême, and had received my contact info from one of the very publishers to decline. After a couple of weeks of discussion of expectations and abilities, it was set. I would intern for her for three months, doing production and marketing on her forthcoming graphic novel Out on the Wire: Subtitle TBD (Crown Publishing Group, August 2015), and to a lesser extent, Trish Trash: Rollergirl sur Mars (Dargaud, January 2015), her first original French language album to be released at the upcoming 42nd annual Festival International de Bande Dessinée (FIBD).

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A short and beautiful stroll.

LMdA

La Maison des Auteurs.

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The artist and her studio.

After two months of planning and twenty-seven hours of travel, I was in my new home in Angoulême on Tuesday, January 6th. The next day I went in to La Maison des Auteurs for a short orientation. The facility, a short and beautiful walk through Angoulême’s centre-ville, is classy, modern, and industrious—clearly a place to get work done. I said hello to Matt Madden, Jessica’s husband, fellow resident, and co-author of the Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics (First Second) series of how-to textbooks, as well as his celebrated 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style and many others. I took my short and beautiful stroll home through the old-world feel of Angoulême, into the maison-charantais-style house I now call home. Little did I know that during my brief few hours out, everything had changed.

I spent the remainder of the night glued to the television watching news of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. With all of the context to consider, I was slow to come to my own conclusion. There are so many perspectives to consider: the cartoonist, the patriot, the ex-patriot, the radical Muslim, the French Muslim, etc.; and the implications are many: free speech, terrorism, religion, racism, satire. It’s only been four days as I write this, and I’m overwhelmed and confused as I collect an ever-growing number of articles and commentary to contribute to a later post. Only a mere days after the event, and the FIBD has already announced the creation of a new award: “the prix Charlie de liberté d’éxpression.”

The next day the studio was eerie calm. I began work on Out on the Wire, and naturally, that was great. I ate lunch with Jessica and Matt, and after work, Jessica gave me a brief walking tour before treating me to dinner. But excited as I was, the air was still heavy, and it was odd to feel excitement at such a somber time. And today, without really knowing why, I marched with an estimated 20,000 people in a marche citoyenne. As the sun sets on my first week here, it has already been an experience that I will never forget.